Monday, June 30, 2014

Sermon for the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles: "Sent"

+ Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles - June 29th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Acts 15:1-12; Galatians 2:1-10; Matthew 16:13-19

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Today is the festival day of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the Scriptures a festival means joy, celebration, thanksgiving, and of course, a feast. A feast means forgiveness. A feast means joy. That’s why it’s called Divine Service: Christ serves us with his gifts, dishes up his own body and blood for our forgiveness, and we give thanks and praise.

 It’s no different today on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Today we rejoice, give thanks and praise to Christ, and gather for the Lamb’s high feast. Any why you might ask?

 All because of one little word: Apostle.

 It simply means sent, or sent one. As in St. Peter who was sent to preach the Gospel to the Jews, and St. Paul who was sent to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. Jesus “apostle-ed” them, sent them, to declare and defend His death and resurrection to all the ends of the earth.

 Wait, you mean St. Peter, the same guy who told Jesus he'd die for Him and then at the first sign of trouble swore an oath he'd never heard of the guy? That Peter? Yup. Oh, and don’t forget about Paul. You know what he did before, right Jesus? Saul?! Remember him!? He killed Christians!

But you see, that’s the point of the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. It’s not really about the man Peter or Paul. By themselves they’re nothing. Paul repeatedly says as much in his letters. It’s not about the man, but the message.

 That’s the joy of Feast Days in the church where we remember saints, disciples, or apostles. The church isn’t built upon these men as men but upon them as apostles: those sent by Jesus to preach in His Name.

And what were they sent to preach? Not Peter and Paul, but Jesus! Jesus crucified and raised for sinners, like us. Jesus at the right-hand of the Father. Jesus by water and word and body and blood – for you. Peter and Paul point don’t point us to themselves, but to Jesus Crucified for you. Remember the word of the day: Apostle, sent.
Pastors are no different today. Pastors are sent, not to persuade you with their award winning personality. Not so you know all our hobbies, favorite foods or music. Not saying those are all bad, but that’s not the main thing. We’re not the big deal. What comes out of the pastor’s mouth is the big deal. That we preach what we are sent to preach: Jesus is the Son of God who came into the flesh, was crucified for your sins and rose again. And that this same Jesus delivers abundant forgiveness to you in water, word, and in Jesus' body and blood.

Thank God the Good News of the Gospel isn’t dependent upon the pastor’s charisma or good looks or sense of humor. Thank God Pastors aren’t like the secret sauce on the animal burgers at In N Out; we’re not the special ingredient that makes the Gospel work and keep people coming back to Church. No, God’s word is powerful enough to do exactly what he sent it out to do: heal, save, forgive, call, gather, enlighten, make us holy. Pastors are simply messengers. Mouthpieces. Megaphones of the Gospel. Instruments. Sent ones.
But there’s the temptation, to make it all about us. And believe me, that temptation is just as real, if not more intense at times, for pastors. It’s easy to think the church’s life and health are dependent upon you. Thank God it isn’t my church or your church. We’d make a mess of it in no time. Just look at what Adam and Eve did in the Garden. We’re no different: apostles of a false god, always sending ourselves to conduct our own little mission projects for our own little kingdoms. That’s why we were sent out of Eden in the first place. And that’s why the Lord promised to send a child born of a woman.

That’s why the Lord sent prophets to foretell this child’s birth in Bethlehem
That’s why angels sang as the Sent One, Jesus, was born to bring peace on earth and good news for all.

That’s why Jesus was sent to us. To bring us back from our eternal exile in sin, death, and hell. To lead us out and send us back to the Father. To send our sin to the cross, to send the devil running, and to send Death to its death.
Jesus sent Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul to deliver that message to us in the Scriptures. That’s why Jesus sends pastors into the Church to deliver that message to you week after week after week.

Of course, it’s not about the man but the message. And yet the man is important, isn’t he? The message is the main thing, but the Lord ordains men to be pastors, he opens their mouths and fills it with his Word.

 Today we give thanks for both: the Good News that because Jesus died and rose, we have the forgiveness of sins. But we also give thanks for the actual men who carried that message to the ends of the earth and even suffered death to do so; Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down. It's not that we glorify these men for their own sakes. After all, they are just men. Rather, we give thanks that they preached the Gospel and the Spirit worked faith in those who heard it.

But our Lord’ gracious apostling doesn’t end with Peter and Paul. The same Gospel they were witnesses of is proclaimed to you today. The same Sacraments are administered here for you today. This is no small deal. Makes you want to have a feast every Sunday! This is Good News: Jesus Christ has triumphed over your sin, death, the devil and hell. And it’s this Good News that sends the devil running away, that scoops up sinners into Christ's church and that displays the glory of God in the mercy of Jesus for all the world to see.

Every time we hear, confess, sing, rejoice in, and give thanks for the Gospel it’s an all-out assault on the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. The Gospel drop kicks Satan in the face every time it’s preached and confessed and sung and rejoiced in. That’s what Jesus means when he says the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against his church. The preaching of forgiveness of sins is God’s way of sending in the Navy SEALs to boot down the door of our sin, bind our old Adam, and rescue us from the gates of hell.
Rejoice. All of that is yours in Baptism where Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon you and sent the devil packing. For the Lord sent his Son to be Crucified for you. Sent his pastors to loose the chains of death and free you from slavery to sin. You’re forgiven.” You’re free. You belong to Christ.

 By ourselves, we’re nothing. But armed with Christ’s Word and body and blood upon our lips, all hell can’t stop us now. By ourselves we’re alone in our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. But in Christ, we are sent to serve and love our neighbor.

 Jesus sends us, he “apostles” you, in your various vocations to serve and love the neighbor, especially by speaking and declaring the Gospel when you have an opportunity to. Remember, Peter was a fisherman. Paul was a tent-maker.

How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news, who publish peace and bring good news of salvation.
How beautiful are the feet who walk next door to your neighbor and invite them to church. How beautiful are the feet who bring a devotional booklet to a friend in need. How beautiful are the feet who visit a sick family member or loved one in the hospital with the words of Jesus the Great Physician. How beautiful are the feet of parents who bring their children to preschool, or grandparents who take time to catechize their grandchildren, or the many helpers we had last week that walked 115 kids around VBS for five days. How beautiful are the feet of you who share the good news wherever Christ has sent you.
 Thanks be to God for all his sent ones, for Peter and Paul, for all pastors in the Church, for each of you in your vocations, and especially for One who was sent to deliver is from sin and death, even Christ our Lord.

 A blessed Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul to each of you…

 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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